The Internet is a wonderful place. Who would have believed that all the information in the world would be available on a device carried in your pocket. When my wife's iPhone ceased to work my fourteen-year-old daughter Googled the problem and had the thing working again within seconds. However, like all good things there is a downside and that is that it gives everyone the ability to broadcast their unmoderated opinions and like that dark functional orifice of the body, everyone has one.
Steve at Mike's Dive Store has given me carte blanche to write whatever I like in these blogs. He's known me a long time and he trusts me. I know that the Internet, especially in the form of a forum, gives anyone with a bitter axe to grind an opportunity to be abusive but if you're going to stick your head above the parapet, you are going to attract the occasional pot shot.
Monty Halls started his career in the Marines so he should know that better than most. More recently he's been starring in diving related television programmes. These are intended as light entertainment, not instructional videos and should be judged as that. Inevitably they attracted a lot of flack on diving forums because of their lightweight nature. I was surprised when Monty took offence and wrote a column in a popular diving magazine threatening to 'measure-up' to anyone brave enough to repeat the criticisms to his face.
In the twenty of more years my work was constantly published, I attracted a lot of followers but also a few Internet enemies mainly motivated by jealousy. It's an unattractive trait but I never got to meet any of these people nor came to blows with them.
If you Google my name, the first thing that comes up to this day is a thread on one of these diving forums entitled "Who the hell is that idiot John Bantin?" It is a very popular reference because all my friends are very amused by it and constantly send the link to friends we have in common. It is full of abuse and rumbles on over more than two hundred posts - but it's great fun to read provided nobody takes offence. I haven't.
Monty once told me that his career in the Marines amounted to nothing much more than "a rugby tour with guns". When people try to kill you, it's easy to take offence but he was lucky if that didn't happen to him. It's not a nice feeling, I can assure you.
On the other hands harsh words are no more than that. If they were said directly they would instantly be lost in the ether. Because the Internet can give them a sort of permanence doesn't mean that they are any more important. If you want to criticise anything I write in these blogs, go ahead. Input is always useful and helps us all improve our thinking. Abuse merely distracts and dilutes the message so avoid it. It just makes us laugh.
Incidentally, after twenty-one years of going on back-to-back dive trips, I've never met anyone who took issue with me on the Internet on the aft deck of a dive boat. Maybe these voracious Internet warriors stay at home, safe in front of their computers, consumed with anger that others are having a better time than they are!
Happy Diving - John Bantin